HC orders Centre to issue NORI certificate to Mumbai doctor

Order will help several doctors who have not been able to go to US following non-issuance of NORI by central government

nori-1A Mumbai researcher has breathed a sigh of relief after Aurangabad bench of Bombay High Court said he should not be brought under the ambit of Union government’s decision of not issuing No Obligation to Return to India (NORI) certificate to Indian medical students studying in United States (US). The researcher, who is also a doctor, had moved the court after he was not issued the certificate by ministry of health and family welfare.

In August 2013, the ministry had decided to stop issuing NORI certificate to doctors planning to study and stay in the US, except those aged 65 and above.

In response, Maharashtra Association of Resident Doctors (MARD) had challenged the decision in Bombay HC by filing a writ petition. Government of India filed a reply saying the step was taken to address problem of shortage of doctors in India.

MARD’s petition was followed by another petition filed by Dr Sunil Nooti, 39, a researcher who worked with University of Kentucky’s Department of Microbiology, Immunology and Molecular Genetics since 2013. Nooti was forced to return to India on December 28, 2015 after Union ministry rejected his NORI application, claiming he was a Bachelor of Medicine, Bachelor of Surgery (MBBS) graduate and therefore, a doctor.

“It is a huge relief for researchers and scientists (having an MBBS degree) who have gone to US on J-1 visa, and a big blow to government which is forcing doctors to return to India, just because they had a MBBS degree in view of the policy decision taken in 2013. The Bombay High Court judgement recognises efforts and dedication of scientists who through their research are working for betterment of mankind,” said Advocate Rahul Totala, lawyer for MARD and Nooti.

HC has also accepted MARD’s petition and stated that seeing the complexity of the issue, it needs further discussion.

Doctors’ fraternity welcomed HC’s decision saying central government’s decision of not issuing NORI certificate, a prerequisite for doctors to work abroad, was unfair.

“Why target only doctors? Brain drain is happening in all sectors. The government is spending money on IITians and engineers too. Non-issuance of NORI certificate to doctors in the name of stopping brain drain of doctors is unfair. We welcome Bombay High Court’s intervention,” said Dr Shihvkumar Utture, treasurer of Indian Medical Association’s Maharashtra chapter.

Dr Sagar Mundada, ex-president of MARD, under whose leadership petition was filed, said number of IITians going abroad is at least 3-4 times more than that of doctors.

“Doctors are soft targets. Present number of MBBS / Doctor of Medicine (MD) doctors in India is around 2 lakh. Stopping 4,000 doctors from going abroad is like saving one drop in ocean,” said Mundada.